Safety for Elderly Hospitalized Patients

Elderly patients (those older than 65 years) make up more than 40% of hospitalizations in the U.S. As the elderly population increases, this percentage will also increase, highly affecting the management of acute care facilities. Patient safety is always a concern in hospitals, but elderly patients are at a higher risk for functional decline during hospitalization. “Functional decline is the inability to perform usual activities of daily living due to weakness, reduce muscle strength, and reduced exercise capacity which occurs due to deconditioning and acute illness during hospitalization.” This weakness can become a safety risk when attending to the patient’s needs or performing exams.

An acute care facility can help reduce these risks by utilizing medical devices and equipment that are designed for use in elderly patient units. For example, hospitals may replace the phone cords on patient telephones from the standard 21 inch cord to a much shorter 7 inch cord. This reduces the risk of the patient tripping on the cord when entering or exiting their bed.

Hospitals can also change their scales to a scale designed specifically for patients with low mobility. Wheelchair scales allow patients to remain safely seated in their wheelchair while simultaneously being weighed. The scale is designed to be able to subtract the entered weight of the wheelchair and display only the patient’s weight. There are also standard stand-on scales that are designed with very low platform heights. These low heights require only a minimal step-up for the patient onto the weighing surface. These low platforms reduce the risk of the patient tripping when trying to step onto the scale.

With the strong emphasis on patient care and safety in the Affordable Care Act, acute care facilities must put the patient experience as a top priority. This includes taking every measure possible to protect them from injury.